NEW YORK -- Sydney Leathers, a young woman who claims to have had a sexually charged online affair with mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, says she is proof that Weiner hasn't changed since a series of similar relationships derailed his political career two years ago.
Weiner, meanwhile, appeared hard-pressed Thursday to say how many women besides Leathers he had sexted, tweeted, emailed and flirted with in cyberspace since being forced out of New York's 9th Congressional District seat in June 2011.
“I don’t believe I had any more than three,” Weiner, 48, told reporters during a campaign appearance Thursday, two days after Leathers -- then known as "anonymous" -- went public on thedirty.com with details of their relationship.
Weiner, who entered the mayoral race in May, reiterated that his wife, Huma Abedin, believes in him, and that his past is just that, the past.
“Look, I love her, she loves me,” he said of Abedin, who appeared with her husband Tuesday evening as he held a news conference vowing to stay in the race. “We have a son. None of the rest of it really matters.”
Voters, though, beg to differ, according to a new poll that shows Weiner – who had been at or near the front of the pack of candidates – falling far behind with about seven weeks to go before the Democratic primary.
Weiner’s unfavorability rating has reached an all-time high, the poll from NBC 4 New York/the Wall Street Journal/Marist showed. Among registered Democrats, Weiner trailed the leader, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, 25% to 16%, a 14-percentage-point swing in Quinn’s favor compared with the same poll from June.
His unfavorability rating swelled to 55%, a dramatic hit after the June poll showed that just 36% of New York Democrats viewed him unfavorably.
“For Anthony Weiner, redemption overload seems to have set in,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Voters are willing to give him a second chance, but they seem much more reluctant to give him a third chance.”
“Weinergate,” as the local media have dubbed the scandal surrounding the troubled politician, took another twist as Leathers spoke to “Inside Edition” and described details of a relationship she said began in July 2012. That was 13 months after Weiner admitted to sending crotch shots and other lewd photographs and messages to a series of women while in office.
Weiner resigned and said he was entering rehab for his problems, to save his marriage and to salvage his reputation.
Leathers said that in the course of their online relationship, Weiner sent her “just two” pictures but that they were “very explicit. Very.”
Weiner described himself as “an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man,” Leathers said. “At that time I was like, ‘Oh, no, you’re not.’ But yes, he is,” she said with a slight laugh.
In April, Weiner asked Leathers to delete evidence of their online chats. By then, she said, she knew he was planning to enter the race to replace Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose final term ends this year. She did not delete their communications and went public with them in part, Leathers said, because she thought people should know about the man who wants to be their next mayor.
“He was making these campaign promises that he had totally changed.... I am proof that is not true,” she told "Inside Edition."
Leathers, described as a 23-year-old political science student living in Princeton, Ind., said she had first been in contact with Weiner in 2011, when she sent him a message on Facebook expressing disappointment in his behavior after the first sexting scandal erupted.
More than a year later, she said, he suddenly reached out to her via Facebook, and their messages quickly turned raunchy.
Leathers said that Weiner initiated the sexually charged conversations, and that the relationship fizzled out in November. She said she last heard from him in April.
Leathers said she felt "very very sorry" for the pain she had caused Weiner's wife, who was pregnant with their first child when the original scandal broke and who used to be a top aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
One of the most notable moments in Weiner’s Tuesday news conference was when Abedin spoke up for her husband. Her support seems to have made little difference; in the latest poll, 73% of registered Democrats said Abedin’s words had no effect on their trust of the candidate.
“That was a prerequisite for his continuing, but it hasn’t solved his problem with voters,” Miringoff said.